Chen Guangcheng met with Congressional leaders today in a meeting that would likely never take place in his home country, where he was imprisoned and sentenced to home arrest for speaking out against forced abortions.
Following his detention, Chen escaped his house arrest and, following a brief stint seeking refuge at the American embassy in Beijing, Chen was allowed to come to the United States and is currently at New York University enjoying time there under a fellowship.
“His example humbles us and reminds us why we cherish freedom so much and why we work so hard to protect it,” Boehner said at a press event that followed the private meeting. “We cannot remain silent when fundamental human rights are being violated …The Chinese government has a responsibility to do better, and the American government has a responsibility to hold them accountable.”
Chen told the media that more people feel able to speak out in China about human rights abuses thanks to the international attention he received.
“I am hopeful that the members here with me today will consider how to take action against China,” he said, according to a Politico report. “Equality, justice and freedom do not have borders.”
Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who has been instrumental in assisting Chen and forced abortion victims, released a statement saying he was glad Chen was able to meet with lawmakers.
“Chen is a hero. He, and his family members and attorneys have all suffered torture because Chen has defended women in Chinese counties who have been targeted, dragged into clinics and forced to abort their children,” he said.
Boehner released the following statement during the height of the diplomatic crisis in China:
“Like millions of other Americans, I have followed the story of Chen Guangcheng with admiration for his courage and concern for his safety and that of his family. I am deeply disturbed by the most recent report by the Associated Press, which suggests Chen Guangcheng was pressured to leave the U.S. embassy against his will amid flimsy promises and possible threats of harm to his family. In such a situation, the United States has an obligation to stand with the oppressed, not with the oppressor. Having handed Chen Guangcheng back over to the Chinese government, the Obama administration is responsible for ensuring his safety. While our economic relationship with China is important and vital to the future of people in both countries, the United States has an obligation to use its engagement with China to press for reforms in China’s human rights practices, particularly with respect to the reprehensible ‘one-child’ policy.”
And when Boehner hosted Chinese president Hu Jintao in January 2011, he used the meeting to bring up the one-child policy.
Chen’s high-profile standoff with the Chinese and his coming to America has put more pressure on the Chinese government related to forced abortions. Earlier this month, Chinese officials paid $11,000 to a woman forced to have an abortion seven months into her pregnancy, according to her attorney. The lawyer said the woman appreciated the financial compensation but said nothing would make up for the forced abortion and the taking of her baby’s life.
The forced abortion sparked international outrage as the picture of Feng Jianmei and the body of her aborted baby lying next to her in a hospital bed circulated the Internet.
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According to multiple news reports, Zhang Kai, the lawyer for the woman and her husband, Deng Jiyuan, said the couple agreed to the settlement of 70,000 yuan, but that the couple faces “spiritual pain” that will endure a lifetime. The state-run Xinhua news agency said the money was meant to avoid any further legal entanglements over the abortion, adding, “The signing of the agreement means neither party should raise any question related to the issue again.”
“Their child, at such a young age, was basically killed. If you pay such little money, it’s not enough,” he said, according to the Globe and Mail newspaper.
Feng was forced to have the abortion after the family was unable to pay the 40,000 yuan fine for violating China’s one-child policy and two local officials were reportedly fired over the forced abortion case.